Produced by: San Jose Stage Company
Directed by: Ken Kelleher
Featuring: Allison F. Rich, Jonathan Rhys Williams, Robert Sicular, Michael Bellino, Justin Gordon and Tanya Marie
When: April 11 through May 6, 2018
Where: San Jose Stage Company, 490 South 1st Street, San Jose
Tickets: $30-$65; call 408-283-7142 or visit www.thestage.org.
powerful cast for 'Postman'
nerve-wracking version of noir classic
Jonathan Rhys Williams owns the stage as the drifter Frank Chambers in San Jose Stage Company's world premiere of Jon Jory's adaptation of "The Postman Always Rings Twice."
Williams is totally in character as this man whose face shows both a long time living on the road, and the swagger of a man who knows he can hold his own in a fight, and get all the women he wants.
This play, based on the 1934 novel by James M. Cain and (I think) slightly influenced by David Mamet's script for the 1981 film, is a morality tale in which almost anybody who did something wrong eventually is punished.
And while for a time it seems as somebody is getting away with something … that does not last.
Frank narrates the play, as well as playing his part. Frank is telling his story from after the events.
The play starts — on a bare essentials set — with Frank being thrown off a hay truck by two men.
A little beaten up, and completely without money, Frank is befriended by Nick Papadakis, who runs a roadside diner in California.
Robert Sicular is wonderful as Nick (and in two other roles). Sicular has a subtle but unavoidable presence on stage — we just want to watch him perform. His Nick is a sweet, kind and oblivious guy who is thrilled to be in America, and thrilled to have a beautiful American wife.
Allison F. Rich — a Stage Company resident artist — is threatening and sexy as soon as she enters the stage, as Nick's bitter wife, Cora. Briefly, she walks with her pelvis thrust forward, which is a subtle clue about what is to come from her.
It's not long before Cora and Frank are chewing on each other's faces and ripping off clothing. "BITE ME!" she screams, and he does.
They decide they love each other, but differ on what to do about it. He wants to hit the road again, with her; she wants to murder Nick the Greek and keep the diner.
An elaborate plan to kill Nick backfires when a cat gets caught in a fuse box. "The poor things can't get it through their heads about electricity," says Justin Gordon as a cop. "Killed her deader than hell."
Cora had beaned Nick in the bathtub, but he didn't die, and doesn't remember anything from the event.
For the week Nick is in the hospital, Cora and Frank enjoy sleeping together every night.
It looks lucky enough that the pair eventually tries again to kill Nick, and this time succeed, although they are arrested. A clever district attorney (Gordon again) manages to turn them against each other, but Cora gets off easy, with a six-month suspended sentence for manslaughter, thanks to her clever lawyer (Sicular). Also on hand is Michael Bellino in a couple of burly cop roles.
They have each other, they have the diner, but the course of perverse, face-eating love did never run smooth, and more trouble ensues, including a separation, a reunion, and Frank having an affair with a woman (Tanya Marie, who is very strong in three parts).
Cora eventually says to Frank, "You want to go because you're a bum. You were a bum, you still are a bum."
Scenic designer Giulio Cesare Perrone uses three columns and some arched elements upstage, with a few chairs downstage that serve as a hay truck, beds, and … as chairs. A table rolls on and off as needed, as does a bathtub and the front seat of a car.
It is the powerful acting that adorns this stage.
And, San Jose Stage makes very good use — as it often does — of loud noises, including in the dark, to make sure everybody in the audience is awake, tense and even scared.
A friend opined after the show that some in the audience did too much laughing, which is a fair comment, because only a few things seem meant to draw a laugh — such as the electrified cat — but I think much of the laughter came from nervous tension.
There is a lot at stake in this morality tale, and it gets under our skin.
Why go see such a grim story? Because the acting is excellent, and it is a rare privilege to see such fine performances.
Like all film noir — while this is not film, it is definitely noir — there is bitter, ironic twist at the end.
Email John Orr at firstname.lastname@example.org